I have a definite soft spot for a good Christmas movie, and especially those dealing with dysfunctional families — think The Family Stone or Home For The Holidays. Nothing in the genre tops It’s A Wonderful Life. Love, Actually is a good one too, and that is probably the closest template to the latest holiday offering Love The Cooperswhich revolves around the traditional Christmas Eve dinner of an extended family but tells the stories in a segmented-type form.

pete hammond review badgeAs I say in my video review (click the link above), critics will probably pounce on this movie, as they often do on this type of feel-good comedy, but they would just be a bunch of scrooges. Don’t get me wrong: This is hardly Oscar-caliber material here, but it’s certainly good-natured and even in some places wildly entertaining if you can connect to the characters.

Set in snowy Pittsburgh, the film stars Diane Keaton and John Goodman as a long-married couple who hold their Christmas Eve family dinner but have not yet revealed to the family that they plan to separate. Alan Arkin is the family patriarch who is upset his favorite waitress at the local hangout (Amanda Seyfried) is leaving. Marisa Tomei plays Keaton’s sister, who is caught shoplifting and picked up by a chatty cop (Anthony Mackie). Ed Helms and Olivia Wilde are Keaton and Goodman’s grown kids, but Helms is out of work and Wilde feels she is unloved; most of her role is played in the airport where she meets cute with an Army guy (Jake Lacy) on leave. They have genuine chemistry and constitute the best sequences in the picture. June Squibb adds some laughs as the dotty aunt, and then there is Bolt, who plays Rags, the family dog — he has secrets of his own.

The film written by Steven Rogers and directed by Jessie Nelson weaves from comedy to drama with ease, thanks to Nelson’s nice balancing act putting this all together. The movie definitely lightweight, but it has something of an edge in the writing you don’t normally see in this kind of movie. CBS Films is releasing and actually it wouldn’t be hard to imagine this on the network as part of its holiday programming. Whatever the venue, Love The Coopers is the perfect gift for the entire family, and that’s certainly not a bad thing these days. Nelson, Michael London and Janice Williams are the producers.

Do you plan to see Love The Coopers? Let us know what you think.